David Blatt was a first time coach in the NBA and walked into a situation where he had a shoot first point guard who was always the lead dog, a mercurial power forward who most assumed would blossom on a bigger stage and of course the best player in the world coming home to right the wrongs from earlier in his career. How’d you feel walking into that job?
The Cavs are supposed to be dominating teams in the East and competing against the top teams in the West. A healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were going to join forces with the LeBron and make nightly highlights like Lebron, Wade and Bosh did down in South Beach. The return of the chosen one to Quicken Loans Arena set everything in motion for a story book ending. LeBron was back, he imported another star, he seemingly had control over the organization except for one spot: head coach.
It was shocking to me the LeBron even agreed to go back to Cleveland with a coach he had no ties to already in place. It could be said the LeBron is the de facto coach regardless but if you have watched anything about the moves LeBron makes business wise it stunned me that he would not want input in the coaching hire in addition to everything else.
The Cavs rebounded from a sub par first half of the season last year before importing a slew of old Knicks to bolster a bench that was a bunch of LeBron’s boys from his Miami years. That might have masked the fact that the team had no real identity on offense or defense. The Cavs still overwhelmed teams in the East with their superior talent and going into the matchup with the Warriors in the Finals, many (I included) thought that even with no Love that Irving and LeBron would be too much. Then Irving got hurt in game one and it was back to the LeBron iso-show that James ran to south beach to get away from in the first place.
Blatt’s struggles to get Kevin Love involved in the offense is mystifying. A guy who was lauded as the best player in the league to not play for a contender was getting his chance to flourish. His ability to pass, score in the paint and shoot from the outside were going to be the perfect compliment to James and Irving’s playmaking ability.
What we have gotten in the year and a half of the Kevin Love years in Cleveland is a player who looks lost on the court defensively (nothing new there) and equally lost on offense. His identity seems to be marinating in the corners waiting for someone to draw a double team and pass him the ball. His post up game has diminished to nothing, his demeanor on the floor has called into question his work ethic and apparently Blatt had enough of dealing with Love:
David Blatt told friends in Israel last week, "It's either me or Kevin Love." Just surprised LeBron didn't decide sooner…
— Peter Vecsey (@PeterVecsey1) January 22, 2016
So after getting handled routinely by the Western Conference elite and also struggling to dominate an improved Eastern Conference on a pace acceptable to the masses, the Cavs finally got Blatt up out the paint:
Cleveland has fired coach David Blatt, sources tell Yahoo.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) January 22, 2016
The Cavs and more specifically LeBron had had enough. He’s called out teammates this season, openly questioned coaching strategies and the overall heart of the roster and nothing worked. No motivational ploys were going to make this team better so there’s was only one move left to make: Promote Ty Lue?
Tyronn Lue of the Sixers? The guy whose whole 11 year playing career is summed up in one epic disrespectful, epic fail moment:
Yeah, that’s actually what’s happened.
Lue has worked his way up to head coach after starting as director of basketball development with the Celtics back in 2009. His mediocre playing career notwithstanding, Lue is highly thought of in the association. He came in as associate head coach on Blatt’s staff and seemingly seemed to be next up in case Blatt needed to skate. There’s reports that James and his crew of Rich Paul and Worldwide Wes wanted Mark Jackson but owner Dan Gilbert and GM David Griffin knew better than to employ Jackson.
So now Ty Lue steps in and has the task of rediscovering a dominant Kevin Love, getting Kyrie Irving healthy throughout the season and playoffs and staying on LeBron James good side. Lue got a 3 year deal in the aftermath of the Blatt firing but please believe if things continue to fizzle out at the Q, then Lue will be stepped over like Iverson did to him all those years ago in the Finals.